I'm a Gen X Instacart delivery worker in Las Vegas. Here are 6 ways to maximize what you earn on the app (2024)

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Bonnie Harada, a gig delivery worker in Las Vegas who has completed just over 3,600 orders for Instacart. Business Insider has verified her identity and employment for Instacart. The story has been edited for length and clarity.

Last year, I moved to Las Vegas. California has mandatory minimum payments under Proposition 22, but Nevada doesn't have those. I was shocked at how much lower the pay is here.

That difference has made it more important for me to work efficiently and take only orders that make sense for me. Here are my top tips if you want to make money on Instacart:

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Shop at stores you already know well — or pick a few and learn their layouts

If you're starting out, take a store or two you're already familiar with or that you regularly shop at that's close to where you live. Know that store inside and out.

Some stores tell you in the app the aisle and the exact shelf where a product is. But otherwise, you need to know the store, especially since most places in the US just pay for the order, not for the time you spend. You need to know how to get in and out of there as fast as possible.

For me, two examples are Smith's, the local Kroger-owned supermarket, and Sprouts. I know those stores like the back of my hand. I won't take shops at stores I'm not good at.

Don't be afraid of Costco orders

For a long time, I didn't take those orders because I thought they were just too big.

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But guess what? Costco is actually one of the easier stores to shop at.

Costco rarely runs out of anything that somebody has ordered. You usually don't have to find a replacement and spend time on that. If you learn the store's layout, you can do it quickly.

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Secondly, if you separate your orders and have all the bar codes all face up, you can get through those lines really much quicker than you think you can.

Invest in some tools of the trade

Buy a good wagon to carry groceries to and from your car. I'm talking about those little granny cart things. Mine has a 300-pound capacity, good wheels, and can fold up to fit into my car.

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Good cooler bags are also important. You need them to handle food safely, but they also come in handy for carrying bulkier or heavier items, whether it's a pack of water or carrying groceries up the stairs into an apartment.

I also buy S-hooks that I use to hang bags on the sides of shopping carts as I shop. That way, I extend the capacity of one cart instead of having to get two carts when I'm shopping large orders or multiple orders at once. I also color-code the bags with clips to keep items for different orders separate.

Figure out what the best times and places to shop are

In my area, I find first thing in the morning is when orders start coming in. There are larger orders that are usually bigger tips or better pay. So, if you're a morning person and that's the time you're available, get up, sign on, and make sure you're close to one of your favorite stores or one that is in a good neighborhood that typically has good tips.

The most affluent neighborhoods are not always the best tippers. Middle-class people are very grateful and often tip well.

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Look at the details of an order and be quick to claim it

Sometimes, orders disappear quickly before you can even figure out whether you want it. You've got to be quick about figuring out how many miles it is, how much it pays, and how much the tip is.

Pick the orders that meet your needs and the time that you have available to shop.

You don't want to get caught up in something that you weren't prepared for. Some orders say they're just six items, but if you look closer, you'll see it's actually dozens of "units," which means the customer has ordered lots of the same item. If you don't have time to deliver hundreds of pounds of San Pellegrino water from Costco, don't take it.

Decide what you're trying to get out of shopping for Instacart

If you need the work to subsidize your income, you could deliver little orders a couple of times a week before you go to work.

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But if this is going to be your main source of income, you need to recognize that and plan for it. The pay and tips for some batches are much lower than others, so you need to know how to leverage Instacart to meet your needs.

An Instacart spokesperson told BI that "shoppers may acquire whatever tools they would like to support their work." Shoppers can verify their insulated bags through the Instacart app to get access to more batches, the spokesperson added.

Do you work for Instacart, DoorDash, Walmart Spark, or another gig delivery service and have a story idea to share? Reach out to this reporter at abitter@businessinsider.com

I'm a Gen X Instacart delivery worker in Las Vegas. Here are 6 ways to maximize what you earn on the app (2024)

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